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A Record-Setting Hailstone In South Dakota?

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A hailstorm that hit Vivian, S.D., last week left behind what might be the biggest hailstone in U.S. history. The current record belongs to a hailstone that fell in Aurora, Neb., in 2003, which measured 7 inches in diameter. Michele Norris talks to James Scarlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, S.D., about whether the record was broken.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

In Vivian, South Dakota, folks are still talking about one heck of a hailstorm. Last Friday, the storm damaged crops and smashed through roofs and windshields. It may also have broken a national record for largest hailstone in U.S. history.

NORRIS: More than on Vivian resident claims to have the biggest of those stones, and today, meteorologists from the National Weather Service have examined several of them to determine if one of them has indeed smashed the record.

And James Scarlett is a meteorologist in charge of the Weather Service office in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He joins me now. Welcome to the program.

JAMES SCARLETT: Oh, thank you.

NORRIS: Now, we should explain the current record belongs to a hailstone that fell in Aurora, Nebraska, in 2003. It measured seven inches in diameter. So how large were the stones that fell in Vivian last week?

SCARLETT: Well, the stones that we measured on Saturday were actually eight inches in diameter and a circumference of a little over 18 and a half inches.

And we came down today to weigh the stone on an official scale, and that weighed just a hair shy of two pounds. It came at one pound and 15 ounces. So, quite the hailstone. And actually, when the person that owns the hailstone found it, it was actually bigger. He measured it at 11 inches in diameter.

NORRIS: How did it shrink?

SCARLETT: Well, when he had it in the freezer, they lost power for five, six hours, and of course, people were coming over to look at it, and he let some more warm air into there, and it ends up melting a little bit.

NORRIS: So did you have to call and say stop opening the door?

SCARLETT: That, too.


SCARLETT: You know, it's hard to tell people that. You know, they've got something they want to show their friends and their neighbors, but we've still got a grand-sized hailstone, and it certainly looks like weight-wide and diameter-wise, it's going to be one of the largest ever recorded.

NORRIS: So you're pretty confident that they did break a record?

SCARLETT: Yeah, we just need to go through the National Climate Extremes Committee and, you know, we want to be consistent and we want to have a process that we can go through so there's no looses ends, there's nobody coming back later saying my hailstone was bigger. It has to go through the committee to establish these things.

NORRIS: So does the winner, the person who collected this great, big, large, cantaloupe-sized hailstone, get some sort of certificate or blue ribbon or something that they can show off to their friends and family?

SCARLETT: Well, he's certainly going to get a lot of notoriety, I think, from weather people around the world that are interested in this stuff. And, you know, we're just happy that we could meet with him, and he's got a great family, and he's a real nice guy, and he was super-helpful. So maybe we'll have to work on getting him a certificate of appreciation.

NORRIS: Yeah, he's got to have something to show the grandkids when he says, oh, remember back in 2010, when there was hail as large as cantaloupes that fell from the sky.

SCARLETT: Yeah, yeah it was something else, and we've got some great pictures for him, too.

NORRIS: Well James Scarlett, all the best to you. Thanks so much for talking to us.

SCARLETT: Okay, well, hey, thank you.

SCARLETT: That's James Scarlett. He's a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He was talking to us about record-breaking hail that fell on the town of Vivian, South Dakota.

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